Monday, April 29, 2019

The Holy Name

" shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name" (Exodus 20:7).

People are closely tied to their names. If someone speaks your name in a crowded noisy room, chances are you will hear it. We are annoyed if someone mispronounces our name, angered if someone belittles it by deliberately abusing it, and infuriated if someone slanders it. We regard an attack upon our name as an attack upon our person. Taking God’s name lightly is forbidden by the third commandment. The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “hallowed be Thy name,” means that we must take God’s name seriously.

Using God’s name in cursing is an obvious violation of this commandment as well. Consider that when people use the name of Jesus Christ in cursing they are inadvertently confessing that at some deep level they regard Jesus as God. Have you ever heard anyone say “Zeus-damn”? The reason people don’t say that in our culture is that nobody regards Zeus as a god any more.

Perhaps the core of the third commandment, however, has to do with using God’s name in swearing oaths. If a person says “honest to God” and is lying, he has used God’s name in order to perpetrate a sin. If a person swears on the Bible to tell the truth and then lies, he is using the Word of God to commit a falsehood. He is seeking to draw God into his sin as a co-conspirator. Such a horrible abuse of His own name God will not overlook.

Evangelical Christians do not take their vows before God seriously enough. When a person joins a confessionally Reformed church, for instance, he stands before the congregation and God vowing to make diligent use of the means of grace (Word and sacrament), to support the ministry of the church (tithe and participation), and to study the peace and purity of the church (supporting church discipline). How many people who have taken this vow don’t attend church while vacationing or when relatives visit? How many give next to nothing to the work of the church? How many cause grief to the servants of the congregation, the pastors and elders? We can also ask the same penetrating questions about vows taken before God in marriage.

Unfaithfulness and lawbreaking are bad enough, but they are compounded when we break an oath before God. How well are you fulfilling your vows before God, such as faithfulness in church membership and marriage, and the oaths taken before baptism?